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Lesson 8: From Slaves to Heirs *

Introduction: Do you recall a time when you were on vacation and you saw some beautiful mountain or scenic canyon? Did you travel around it so that you could see it from different angles? That is how our lessons feel recently. We have been asking this question: "If we were saved by trusting in God from the very beginning, why did God give us the Ten Commandments later?" We have looked at this question several times now, and we look at it again in this lesson. Paul apparently wants us to consider the question from all angles, so let's plunge into our study of the Bible and view a different angle!

  1. Sons and Daughters

    1. Read Galatians 3:23-26. How has your status improved? (We went from "prisoners" to "sons!")

      1. How did we become sons? ("Through faith in Christ Jesus.")

    2. Read Galatians 3:27. How important is baptism? (Extremely! When we go under the water in baptism, we "cloth" ourselves with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.)

    3. Read Galatians 3:28. During the time that Paul wrote Galatians, there was a huge societal difference between Jews, Greeks, slaves, males and females. What is the importance of these differences when you become saved? (They disappear. We all become one in Jesus.)

    4. Read Galatians 3:29. Is this a different angle than we discussed two weeks ago? Then we discussed that we inherited from Abraham the contract that he had with God. That contract was that Abraham should believe (trust) God, and God would consider Abraham righteous. What does this say about the way we inherit the promise made to Abraham? (It says that we inherit if we "belong to Christ." Belonging to Christ means that we trust what He has done on our behalf. This reaffirms the same promise, the same inheritance.)

  2. Slaves and Heirs

    1. Read Galatians 4:1-2. How can Paul say a son is "no different from a slave?" A son has hope and a future. A slave does not. How can we understand what Paul is saying in a way that makes sense? (Paul is writing like a lawyer. From a legal point of view, a young son has the same kind of limitations as a slave.)

    2. Read Galatians 4:3. What are the "basic principles of the world?" (Adam and Eve were warned that a basic principle is that sinners die an eternal death. (Compare Genesis 2:15-17 with Genesis 3:1-5.) The Ten Commandments generally reflect basic principles of the world. Do not steal, do not kill, and other self-evident rules. You don't need the Ten Commandments to know that those things are wrong.)

    3. Read Galatians 4:4-5. When we talk about a child, moving from a child to an adult occurs early in life. When does this change from slave to adult son take place when it comes to our relationship with God? (It took place when Jesus came to earth to live, die and be resurrected on our behalf.)

      1. Everyone who is reading this lesson was born after the time that Jesus came to earth. What do you think Paul means when he says that we ( Galatians 4:5) have the "full rights of sons?" What, exactly, are those "rights?" (The context shows that we have the right to be free from "guardians and trustees." We are no longer like slaves.)

        1. Does this include being free from the Ten Commandments? (Yes! And, all other kinds of laws given by God to guide humans.)

      2. Let me ask you a practical question. Why did the parents hire guardians and trustees? Why did you teach your children that they should do certain things and not do others?

        1. Would you reasonably expect that when your children became adults, they would disregard all of the things they were taught by you? (Just the opposite. Parents hire "guardians and trustees" to teach and direct their children for the very purpose of convincing the child of the best way to live when they grow up.)

    4. Read Galatians 4:6. Under whose influence do we independent "adult" children of God live? (You may get tired of me saying this, but Paul makes the point over and over again: we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The Holy Spirit leads us into a Father - son (daughter) relationship with God.)

    5. Read Galatians 4:7. What is the context for us becoming an "heir?" What have we been discussing about our inheritance?(We inherit the promise that if we trust God, we will credited with being righteous.)

      1. Does this verse suggest that we have inherited more than that? (Yes! We have become part of the family of God. We are God's sons and daughters.)

    6. Read Galatians 4:8. When you were discussing the last several questions, you might have said, "We are all living after Jesus' time here on earth, so why are we even discussing the idea of us being "slaves" instead of "sons?" Is the time of slavery currently going on for some people? (Yes. For those who do not "know God," they are still slaves!)

      1. Could a person know the Ten Commandments and not know God? (Think of the pagans that you know. Do they murder others? Do they recognize that it is wrong to steal? These concepts are widely understood.)

      2. Consider the person who believes that they are a "good person," but who rejects "religion." Are they slaves? (Yes! They are not children of God for they have rejected Jesus' offer of salvation and the offer to be His son or daughter.)

      3. Who or what are the "not gods" in Galatians 4:8?

    7. Read Galatians 4:9-11. Some say that the religion to which the Galatians are "turning back" is a mystery. Do we have any clues? ("Special days and months and seasons and years" sounds precisely like the Old Testament holidays and its system of economic rules. When you consider Galatians 2:11-15 the answer seems very obvious - Paul is talking about them turning back to Judaism, with its emphasis on works of the law.)

      1. Is that the "not gods" of Galatians 4:8?

    8. Focus on Galatians 4:10 and its reference to "days." I worship on Saturday in accord with Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, and the fact that Jesus rested in the grave on Saturday after He died on the cross. Is Paul telling me that I'm making an error? Is grace wasted on me? (If you look at older commentaries, they argue that this verse does not apply to a weekly day of rest. (They are arguing for going to church on Sunday.) I think Robertson's Commentary states it best: "Paul does not object to these observances for he kept them himself as a Jew. He objected to Gentiles taking to them as a means of salvation." Worshiping on Sabbath does not save you. Trusting God saves you.)

      1. If you believe, as I do, that a weekly day of rest and worship is God's plan, on what day would you rest and worship if you trusted God? ( Exodus 20:11 tells us that the Sabbath reminds us that God is our Creator. Jesus' Sabbath rest after His crucifixion, reminds us that God is our Redeemer. Why would I pick out my own day (a different day) if I trusted God?)

    9. Read Galatians 4:12-16. How do you like it when someone corrects you? When someone disagrees with your theological views? (We don't like it. But, Paul tells the Galatians to consider their history with him. When he first taught them about trust and grace they were filled with joy.)

  3. Zealous

    1. Read Galatians 4:17-18. Do you believe in evangelism? Do you believe in being "on fire" to advance the gospel? What warning does Paul give us about being evangelistic and "on fire?" (He says it is fine as long as you are pursuing a "good purpose.")

      1. What bad purpose is involved here? (Promoting the law instead of trust in God.)

      2. Have you had a discussion in your church about how best to evangelize your town? If so, what did members suggest? (I recall several suggestions. One is to talk about prophecy and the monsters in Revelation. Another is to talk about the Sabbath. Another is to improve cooking skills and health. Another is seminars that will help local people in some way. Some of these, obviously, are merely aimed at getting people in the door of the church.)

        1. If you specifically targeted "trust in God" as your evangelistic outreach, what would you do?

    2. Read Galatians 4:19-20. Why would Paul "change [his] tone" if he were present with the Galatians? (He is likely using a harsher tone to get their attention. If he were present, he would not have to do that.)

    3. Friend, does looking at the law and grace in terms of "slaves" and "sons" help you to better understand the importance of trusting God? Why not ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust God more?

  4. Next week: Paul's Pastoral Appeal.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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